Friday, April 8, 2016

Edwardian Telephone Etiquette

Early Bell Telephone literature explained how "courteous and considerate co-operation is essential at the telephone..."  —The instrument is not to be used as a means of paying a social visit to a man in his office without the bother of going there in person. 

Etiquette When Telephoning

BOOKS of etiquette should be expanded to contain a chapter on the courtesies of using a telephone. To begin with, the instrument is not to be used as a means of paying a social visit to a man in his office without the bother of going there in person. 


There is no possible objection to calling a friend down town during the day, when there is a question to be asked or a bit of informatlon that should be conveyed. But the woman at the other end of the line must bear in mind that a man in the office is having endless demands upon his time and that he must meet them. Also, that business is absorbing at the moment, and however much pleased he may be at being remembered, his mind is not then in social trend. 

So to respond to a continued conversation about the uptown side of life he must switch his mental equilibrium, and the less he is obliged to do this when pressed for time, the more popular his acquaintances will be with him. When occasion arises that a man is to be telephoned to, the message should be as brief as is consistent with perfect courtesy, without brusqueness, and then the woman should end the talk. 

Must Pay Hostess for Out-of-Town Calls

To use the instrument of another person as though it were one's own is a mistake frequently made through thoughtlessness. It is not good form to make a practice of asking permission to do so when paying a call. Some women have the habit of asking to use the phone quite as they would were the house a public station, and this is an abuse of good nature. The idea that an offer to pay regular toll rates for the message makes it right is a mistake. It is sometimes a great inconvenience to a hostess to allow an outsider to use the phone. For Instance, it may not be situated in a place where she cares to take a stranger, and it is not well to use one's hostess as a "convenience." 

In cities where public phones are in every block there is rarely justification for using the phone of a friend unless one is visiting in the same house. But if it is employed it should be regarded as a courtesy and nothing said about paying for the message, except where it is without the regular radius and is known to be an extra charge. Then the person who has talked should offer to pay and a hostess should accept the tariff. 

No Long Conversations on Phone 

Tradespeople in the country complain that it is almost impossible to get their customers on the telephone in time to get out orders as back in the day as they are wished. Because country residents have a comfortable way of sitting down before the instrument soon after breakfast and paying social visits with their neighbors. 

Of course there ls always a question or answer at the beginning which made the call necessary, and with that, they begin a long conversation. The consequence is that those who need to get the phone for business pertaining to the household are entirely prevented, and the butcher, who has the best desire to get out meat in time for luncheon, does not have the opportunity to ask for his order much before the moment it should be delivered. 

If one must hold lengthy conversations over the wire, by all means let them be in the afternoon or evening, when they will not interfere with business. To tell personal affairs over the telephone is unwise. Though the person talking may not see any one else, everything she says is audible to at least one other besides the one whom she is addressing, and sometimes more than "central" hears. Much gossip in the country comes out in this way and it is a fact to be regretted. — Rosanna Schuyler, 1909
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia